More than 2,500 recent high school graduates who started classes on Aug. 27 in the Dallas County Community College District are special: they represent the first group of Dallas County Promise students who are participating in the new last-dollar, full-tuition program funded by the DCCCD Foundation.
They are blazing a trail for other area students who want to attend college but who thought they or their families could never pay for higher education.
“We are excited to welcome our new Dallas County Promise students this fall,” said Dr. Joe May, DCCCD’s chancellor. “That’s a significant number of new students and – because it’s the first year for the Promise program – those students represent hours and hours of work done by DCCCD and our education partners in participating school districts, the Commit Partnership, early college high schools and universities that all are investing in the Promise. As the program expands, we know that those numbers will increase.”
‘I don’t know what you all are here for, but I’m here to learn this stuff!’
— Carmen Grace
The original Dallas County Promise partnership included DCCCD, the Commit Partnership, the University of North Texas at Dallas and the Dallas Independent School District. Less than a year after its launch, the education partnership now includes six additional districts and Southern Methodist University, and 43 early college high schools in cohort 2 – and those students attend classes either on high school or college campuses.
May added, “One of several outstanding aspects of Dallas County Promise is its ties to workforce and economic development in Dallas County, too – particularly our engagement with business partners who need a well-trained workforce for the evolving job market.
“While not everyone needs a four-year degree to find a job that pays a living wage, they do need some college, especially because technology is changing the face of the job market. That’s where Dallas County Promise comes in: college completion represents economic opportunity for everyone. Students also are selecting career pathways that align with our regional job market,” he explained.
Carmen Grace, a new Promise student who started classes at Cedar Valley College this fall, is excited about earning a college degree without any debt.
In an interview with CBS DFW, Grace commented, “They’re like, ‘We got that for you, so all you have to do is focus on learning.’ Man….I’m happy about it. I’m super happy about it! I go into class every day stress-free, looking around (at other students), and I’m thinking ‘I don’t know what you all are here for, but I’m here to learn this stuff!'”
The Dallas County Promise program kicked off in May with a special event at Adamson High School in Dallas; it marked the growth of seeds that were planted with DCCCD’s Rising Star Program. Those seeds have grown to become a network that has brought together DCCCD, other college and universities in the area, multiple school districts, businesses, and education and community organizations that all have one common goal: student access, success and college completion.
The program also aligns with employment needs in the Dallas area, which is unique among Promise programs across the U.S.
The spring kick-off event featured a visit from Dr. Jill Biden, former Second Lady and community college proponent, who talked to the audience of high school seniors about where they had been and where they are going.
Biden told them, “You’ve done so much to stand with your classmates today. You’ve studied. You’ve planned. You’ve juggled homework and sports and clubs and family obligations, and I’m sure many of you — like I did — have a job in high school. You’re worried at times, but hey, you did it!”
In other remarks, Biden addressed the need for Promise programs. “I’ve seen it time and time again in my own classroom: the chance to go to college is life-changing for students and their families. The Dallas County Promise is giving local students the chance to attend school, complete their education, expand their career choices and build lives that are more financially secure. That’s not just good for them — it strengthens the Dallas workforce and helps build a more prosperous economy for all of North Texas.”
Dr. Martha Kanter, former under-secretary for the U.S. Department of Education and current executive director for the national College Promise Campaign, agreed. “This dynamic collaboration in one of the nation’s largest community college districts will inspire other communities and states to follow their lead,” she said. “A high school education is no longer enough for a good job and a decent quality of life.
The Dallas County Promise program was announced in fall 2017 for high school seniors in 31 Dallas ISD early college high schools partnered with DCCCD colleges as well as businesses that had signed on to support P-Tech schools. Twelve additional early college high schools joined the Promise network in fall 2018
Earlier this year, Promise students signed a pledge to complete college; filled out their FASFA (or TASFA) form; applied to college; and enrolled in classes for the fall 2018 semester. Among those 31 schools, 9,300 students were eligible, and approximately 4,000 completed all required steps.
This fall’s enrollment of Dallas County Promise students in DCCCD colleges represents a 40 percent increase in the number of students from those same high schools last year who attended one of the district’s seven colleges.
The Promise Class of 2019 will start that same process during a free special event on Oct. 6, 2018, at UNT Dallas from 1 to 4 p.m. Parents are invited (and a pilot Promise program for parents actually was launched in eight schools this year as well).
For more information, visit www.dallascountypromise.org.
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